Leave It At The Door

“…Are you going to set [the] problem aside or carry it with you?”

Hiatus. Sanctuary. Respite. A ballet class in the studio can serve as any one of these things to any dancer at any place in life. To succeed as a dancer, whether it’s your hobby or your career, the best thing you can do for yourself is to let go. While it’s important physically (too much muscle tension sure don’t look pretty!), it’s nearly essential emotionally and mentally. If you don’t clear your head the second you enter the studio, or put an enthusiastic mantra in your head at minimum, not only are you not going to enjoy yourself, you’re going to struggle.

I was reminded of that feeling of escape Monday, when I attended class at one of my home studios in the Berkshires (with my dance mom-for those of you who read last week). Taking class with up and coming students, I was reminded of just how much there is going on in those high school years. AP classes, college searches, SATs, extracurriculars, prom preparation – the list goes on. All those well-rounded adults out there, who are able to handle huge workloads (I’m one, if I do say so myself), got their start in high school. Being back in that studio again, the feeling that came to mind was relief. I was transported back to those teenage years when I’d forget about homework, drop my pencil, say good riddance for at least a couple of hours, and go to ballet class.

That feeling of escape does not only relate to the young age set though. There is always something to attend to and something on our mind. It can be the trivial struggles of the everyday or a life altering situation-a loss, a breakup, a disagreement. There are many things that can be haunting your mind before you enter that space and put your left hand on the barre to begin. But here’s the question – are you going to set that problem aside or carry it with you? Are you going to burden yourself with sadness, anger, or resentment while you simultaneously try to master the intricacies of ballet technique? Or are you going to neutralize your mind? It’s a choice. I’m not at all saying that it’s impossible to succeed while carrying emotions and life experiences with you. I will fully admit that some of the best dancing I have done has stemmed from dramatic emotions tied to specific situations in my life. “Whatever you feel, just dance it.” (Name that ballet film…“Jody Sawyer, everyone!!”)  It is possible and sometimes necessary. However, I think sometimes it can get the best of you. Success is more probable if you aren’t driven by whatever may be troubling you. When you leave it at the door, you open yourself up to a much better experience. Don’t set the “barre” too high for yourself, don’t think it’s going to be the worst class of your life, but wipe the slate clean. Clear your mind of your day’s predisposition and just focus. It is nearly impossible to put any additional corrections or choreography into your brain, if it is already filled with stressful thoughts. Give yourself the opportunity to succeed.

Even if you do this, you might not have the greatest class, rehearsal, or show of your life, but you do know that by no means did you jeopardize yourself. You will not have squandered another day you had to dance, to enjoy yourself, and to learn. If you did truly leave it at the door, you’ll realize it when you pick your baggage back up. You might not notice immediately, but it will hit you, whatever thought or emotion you abandoned to begin with (it might even creep in in the middle of a combination, but you have the power to push it aside). You can pick it back up and address it again, or it might not even seem important anymore. Then you know that you found that place, even if it was only for 90 minutes. Your hiatus. Your sanctuary. Your respite. And isn’t that why we dance? Because of that feeling we can’t live without? It’s escape. It’s freedom. It’s your place because you’re the best version of yourself you can possibly be.

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